It feels like we are entering a new year with a half-time whistle. Normally we come into a year with prayers and dreams of hope for what we long to see over the months ahead. I pray that none of us lose that focus and ability to dream.

Yes, the first half of this pandemic has been extremely challenging on so many levels, but the time is now to dust ourselves down, refocus and be prepared to go again.

My wife Anne supports Liverpool and went to the 2005 Champions League Final against AC Milan in Istanbul. At half-time her team was 3 – 0 down – battered, defeated, facing an impossible comeback; many fans exited the stadium with tears streaming down their face. Their trophy dreams seemed shattered and hope of a win ebbed away.

Sometimes at the lowest point, in the face of what seems like a mountain too hard to climb, something shifts. Heads were down, hearts were heavy, but then hope began to rise again. In a 10-minute period in the second half, Milan looked directionless and miraculously Liverpool scored three goals in rapid succession. They went on to win on penalties.

We as the evangelical church in the UK might feel like we are looking at a scene too challenging to face, a hill we are not equipped to climb, but we have been rebuilding and serving society, seeking to create lasting change and social benefit, for centuries. We can do it! “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). We are called to adopt a level of effort not previously required in living memory, for the vast majority of us at least. The amazing news is that we do not undertake the second half of this pandemic fallout on our own. God is with us.

So much of what we face is impacted by our perspective. Imagine the Liverpool dressing room at half-time. Now imagine the AC Milan one. One room filled with sadness and disappointment, the other one excited and almost victorious. And yet there was a complete turnaround. Those dressing rooms literally had a reversed reaction by the final whistle.

What we see and experience now is not what we will see then. Think of the Apostle Paul: the angry man breathing out murderous threats whilst travelling to Damascus to incarcerate believers was completely different to the man who came out of Damascus. He was blind, then he could see, he was filled with the love of God, and his encounter with the King transformed everything He saw (Acts 9).

The narrative that the Lord is writing is not the story that we always see physically. He wants us to lift up our heads (Psalm 24:7) and come back to the heart of worship and know that He has hold of the past, the present and the future. He wants us to open our eyes to the hope He can bring in the face of economic difficulty. Yes, the social challenges will get greater, the gap between the haves’ and have nots’ wider, but we are required to play a key part in bringing His transforming power to the people.

There may never be a time like this again in our lifetime, and we have a choice to make. We could look onto the future field with doubt and fear, or we can kindly and courageously walk back on believing for breakthrough in lives all around us. In John 4:35 Jesus says, I tell you open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

Interestingly, this is when the Samaritan woman has encountered Jesus and is busy leading her town to Him. Let’s pray that we can be the kind of worshippers the Father seeks (John 4:23 – 24), and stand on the shoulders of the giants of faith who have come before us. The second half is about to kick off; let it begin with a deep encounter of the Father’s love that catapults us back out in spirit and truth to see the harvest gathered in.

We are required to play a key part in bringing His transforming power to the people.